What You Need to Know About Turning Your Chicago Home Into an Airbnb

Since launching out of a San Francisco apartment in 2008, Airbnb has completely revolutionized the travel and vacation industries.

The home sharing service – which allows homeowners to rent out part or all of their home to guests they meet online – has permanently disrupted the hospitality sector, inspired a plethora of imitators, and become a sort of casual shorthand in its own right, like “Google” or “Kleenex” before it.

And there’s reason that the brand could become as ubiquitous as those other household names. Airbnb is now worth more than $30 billion and boasts more than 150 million users, including thousands of “hosts” who offer up spaces for rent in thousands of cities spread all across the globe.

Here in Chicago, many homeowners look at Airbnb and see dollar signs; using the service to rent out a home or condo for short periods seems like an easy way to generate passive income, without having to deal with all of the long-term stresses that can come with being a full-time landlord. And, at the same time, you’d be getting the chance to meet fascinating new people from all over the planet! It’s a little adventure – and one that could prove lucrative in the long run.

And while all of that is certainly true, it’s also important to note that Airbnb hasn’t been without its fair share of controversies over the years – and that the process for getting started as a host in Chicago may be a little different than you might think.

Live in Chicago and want to start renting out some or all of your house or condo through Airbnb or a similar home sharing platform? Here’s what you need to know…

Chicago Vs. Airbnb – A Brief History

Remember when we said that Airbnb “disrupted” the hospitality industry? Well, as it turns out, there are plenty of people who liked it just the way it was, and who saw Airbnb as a threatening intruder.

Plenty of cities across the U.S. and around the world have imposed restrictions on the rental service, whether out of concern for public health and safety or for sake of their tourism industries. Chicago is one of those places.

After debuting in the city, the service was hailed as a prime example of the “sharing economy” in full gear by some, and as a distinct nuisance by others. Lobbying campaigns were launched on both sides, passionate debates were held, and, long story short, in 2016, the City Council (with the backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel) ended up easily passing a series of rules designed to tax and regulate Airbnb and similar services.

While the regulations are somewhat complex, the main things to know are that Chicago now poses license fees, taxes, and regulations on Airbnb and other short-term vacation rental services; there are also certain requirements and regulations that would-be hosts need to be in compliance with before renting out their homes.

What You Need to Know About Using Your Home as an Airbnb in Chicago

Looking to generate income as an Airbnb host?  Here’s what you need to know:

1.) You must register with the city
The most important thing to remember is that, before you can begin taking advantage of the service, you must register with the city of Chicago.

Anyone with a property listed for short-term rental on Airbnb or a similar site must register, unless the owners already have a valid vacation rental or bed-and-breakfast license (which are regulated differently).

Registration is free, and must be re-done annually; if you began renting your home through Airbnb or a similar service before the ordinance passed, you must still register.

Once you have received a registration number, you aren’t just limited to Airbnb; you may host through any approved home sharing platform.

For more information or to begin the registration process, we encourage you to visit Airbnb’s guides to home sharing registration in Chicago, available here and here. You can also find out more about registration and licensing through the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and its website, available here.

2.) Your registration can be denied
There are certain circumstances that could cause your registration to be denied, primarily having to do with zoning ordinances. You may appeal a denial. If you continue to make bookings after your registration has been denied, you could face fines from the city.

3.) Be sure to consult with your condo or homeowners association
If you rent, or if you’re part of a condo or homeowner’s association, it’s also important that you consult with your lease and/or your community organization’s bylaws to see if you’re permitted to Airbnb in your building. As part of the ordinance, the city maintains a Prohibited Buildings List; it’s solely up to the discretion of a community association’s board of directors to register for that list.

You can find more information about that process here, via the Chicago Tribune; DNAInfo also hosted a map of the Prohibited Buildings List here (last updated in early 2017).

Think you’d like to start offering up your home through Airbnb or a similar service? Curious about what it would take to invest in a new property to use for home sharing? Looking for referrals for housecleaners, real estate photographers, or insurance agents who could help make becoming a host even easier? For all of these questions and more, Real Group can help guide you in the right direction. Drop us a line today to keep the conversation going!

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